October 19, 2016

Traumatic events, no matter their shape or form, can affect all of us. 

In the wake of community violence, injustice and disasters--both natural and manmade--our mental health crisis line is available 24/7 at 503-988-4888. And the following are tips and resources.

It is natural after a traumatic event to feel unsafe, distrustful, angry or numb. People may be unable to stop thinking about what happened. They may have trouble concentrating, making decisions or sleeping.

Images on television and social media can trigger memories of earlier traumatic experiences.

Trauma can also cause physical distress, including an upset stomach, a racing heart and sweating. Some feel severe headaches. Others begin smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs, or eating to excess.

Emotional troubles can persist, with people feeling helpless, easily irritated and a desire to avoid people and places altogether.

Take care of yourself:

Turn to your family and friends. Talking with someone close to you who can understand what you are going through helps.

Limit exposure to media. Increase coverage can raise stress levels. Be aware of feelings of anger, anxiety or depression. Take a screen-time break to recover.

Keep up with typical schedule and routines including exercise, mealtimes and sleep. Try to include more recreational activities, as well. Take part in meaningful cultural activities.

Understand that some people want to share reactions but others withdraw or avoid discussion. Be sensitive in conversations and understand people process trauma in different ways.

Negative feelings after a traumatic event can last days to weeks. For most people, these feelings will gradually lessen. If these feelings do not go away, and begin affecting your relationships and work, it’s time to seek help.

Take care of children:

Help children feel safe by keeping to their usual routines and surroundings. Limit their television viewing or hearing adult conversations about the traumatic event.

Pay attention and be a good listener. Ask children what they have heard about the event and how they feel about it. Provide information that is age-appropriate and will help them understand. Preschoolers, for instance, need to be protected. School-aged children may be told that a bad event happened and people have been hurt or killed. Adolescents will need more information, so you can watch media coverage with them and talk about what they are seeing and feeling.

Reassure children that many people are stepping up to help the situation, including firefighters, health workers, police, community leaders and others.

Remind children that traumatic events like these are rare and that generally, the world is safe.

crisis line phone number
To find help:

Mental Health Crisis and Referral Line: 503-988-4888

The Multnomah County Mental Health call center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Highly trained mental health professionals serve as the front door to the mental health system offering an ear, counsel and direction to other helpful resources.

Urgent Walk-in Clinic

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare's Urgent Walk-in Clinic is open 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. for any county resident regardless of their health insurance, income, or age.  Clinic staff provide counseling, medication prescribing, referrals to affordable mental health, medical, and substance treatment, and other community resources.
4212 SE Division, Suite 100, Portland, OR 97206 (map) enter at corner of SE Division and 42nd Ave.

Project Respond

Cascadia’s Project Respond is a mobile mental-health crisis response team that provides crisis intervention 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Project Respond is accessed through the Multnomah County Call Center or through a law enforcement officer and serves all individuals and families experiencing a mental health emergency within Multnomah County.  Project Respond often provides a brief follow up and referral after a crisis to ensure resolution. For more information call the Multnomah County Call Center at 503-988-4888.

Sources and resources:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) “Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster of Traumatic Event, a Guide for Parents, Caregivers and Teachers,’’;  “Tips for Survivors, Coping with Grief after Community Violence;”

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD: National Center for PTSD, “Effects of Disaster, Risk and Resilience Factors’’